Category Archives: Christmas menu’s

Three gluten free and dairy free Christmas desserts

In the run up to Christmas I have my annual date with the Portmeirion Food and Craft Fair . Now in its sixth year the market combines all that’s best of our local crafters, small businesses and food producers.

I have a love hate relationship with Christmas. I detest the corporate grasp, on what was once a pagan festival to mark the shortest day and a turning point as the light creeps back in. Even the Christian story is the antithesis of what Christmas has become. On the other hand I love a traditional family Christmas; I love small handmade presents, gifts with meaning and sentiment, carefully chosen or made. I love to make my own presents, food gifts wrapped in tissue and ribbon, bottles of home-made liqueur, chocolates and Christmas puddings and I love browsing the stalls of Christmas markets; eating mince pies and drinking mulled wine as Christmas carols drift along on the breeze.

My kids are now older; both wish for nothing more than hard cash towards a fight to India (the twenty-one year old) and a new drum kit (the fifteen year old). But I still take pleasure in getting them little presents to go along with this distinctly unromantic Christmas gift.

This was my fourth year presenting on the demo stage at Portmeirion. I tend to stick to dessert making as the stage is always heavy with meat offerings, so its nice to provide a contrast, something different that can be recreated at home. I’m also very aware that more and more people have special dietary requirements, myself included, so I concentrated on some tasty alternatives. On the menu this year was traditional Christmas pudding (but a quicker, Gluten free version), mulled wine oranges and fruit and nut dairy free chocolate fudge. The oranges are an awesome accompaniment to the Christmas pudding, on their own with dairy free ice cream (or normal ice cream) and the fudge is a great alternative to pudding if you end up too full to eat Christmas pudding, but want something sweet with coffee. The fudge also makes a great present for anyone avoiding dairy.

Let’s begin with the mulled wine oranges..

To serve four

  • 4 medium oranges
  • 190ml red wine
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 6 black peppercorns

Peel off 6-8 thin strips of zest from one of the oranges

Put the wine and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the pared orange zest and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then bubble gently for about 10 minutes until the wine is reduced by about half and is lightly syrupy. Leave to cool completely.

Slice the peel and pith away from the remaining oranges. Slice the oranges horizontally into 3mm thick rounds, then put them in a large bowl along with any juice.

Pour the cooled mulled wine syrup over the orange slices. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for at least a few hours for the flavours to develop.

Take them out of the fridge half an hour or so before serving, to bring to room temperature. You could also warm them again gently. The oranges and their sweetly spicy liquor are delightful just as they are – but a little ginger biscuit or two on the side is rather good, as is ice cream, or use to pair with Christmas pudding.

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Easy Christmas pudding

175g gluten free plain flour

2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 teaspoon ginger

Half a teaspoon nutmeg

175g gluten free breadcrumbs

175g butter

175g brown sugar

850g mixed fruit

75g mixed peel

Rind and juice one orange

2 eggs

120ml gluten free brown ale

Mix the dried ingredients together (the first five on the list)

Rub in the butter until it resembles course breadcrumbs. It doesn’t have to be perfect)

Stir in the sugar

Add the fruit and stir to combine then mix in the wet ingredients (orange zest and juice, eggs and beer. I used a beer from Cwrw Ogwen, our local micro brewery, which I’m aware is not gluten-free. But there are several gluten-free ales now on the market that can be substituted).

Turn into a pudding basin (3 pint) and cover with greaseproof paper or a pudding cloth and foil

Steam for 6 hours topping the pan up with boiling water if it gets low

Cool, change the paper and store in a cool dry place. It will keep for months!

When ready to use steam for another 2 hours.

***For the speedy version: Make smaller puddings and use individual pudding basins then cook in the oven. Set the oven at 160 degrees/ gas mark 3. Fill a roasting tray with water and cover the puddings as above. Stand the bowls in the tray so the water comes half way up the sides. Cook for two and a half hours. Cool and rewrap as before. When you want to use them reheat in the same way, heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 5 and reheat for 30 minutes.

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Dairy free Chocolate fudge

375g very dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa solids)

1 can of full cream coconut milk

Icing sugar

(Chopped pecans / fruit soaked in rum or brandy/cinnamon/vanilla)

Break chocolate into a bowl

Heat sugar and coconut milk in a saucepan until just bubbling

Pour over the chocolate and stir briskly to melt

Add cinnamon or spices / vanilla (feel free to experiment!)

50g of fruit and 50g nuts (I used a berry and cheery mix soaked in rum overnight and chopped pecans but you can experiment with your favourites)

Turn in to a dish lined with greaseproof paper  and refrigerate. Cut into chunks and serve. Or package in neat little boxes and send as presents.

I couldn’t pay a visit to Portmeirion without adding to my photo collection, or getting fuelled up on Poblado coffee. It must be one of THE most photogenic places I’ve ever visited; even in the mud, rain, or on a cold dull Welsh winters day I see a new angle, a new view… a wander with the camera and a warm, smooth coffee from one of our best Welsh producers (they roast their own coffee) and my afternoon wound up perfectly.

 

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The Christmas countdown: Pudding series #1 Date and pecan with salted caramel sauce

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See! It’s not all bah humbug. And so begins a Christmas countdown of my favourite alternative Christmas puddings, especially for those that loathe the traditional, dense fruity stuff.  According to Unilever and Love Food Hate Waste 5 million Christmas puddings get thrown away every year, I’m not sure if this is through over consumption and over enthusiastic purchasing or just because there are a lot of people who don’t like the stuff. Instead why not try something different?

There are plenty of alternatives to Christmas pud that are cheap, easy to make, have as much wow factors as a blazing steamed pudding and will bring many more gasps of appreciation.

To begin this brief, last-minute series one of my all time favourite desserts. Sticky toffee pudding with a twist, and a handful off chopped pecan nuts, a bit of spice and a salted caramel sauce with vanilla salt and there you have it, perfection in a dish.

Sticky date and pecan pudding with salted caramel sauce (makes 6 to 7 puddings, depending on the size of your dishes)

270g dates
50g pecan nuts (chopped)
half a teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g unsalted butter
185g self-raising flour
125g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
200g golden granulated sugar
120ml double cream
Vanilla sea salt

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C. Grease six muffin holes or individual tins.
Place the dates and 250ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda. Add 60g of the butter and stir until melted.

When you add the bicarbonate of soda the pan will fizz. The addition helps soften and 'break down' the dates which may remain a litle hard otherwise

When you add the bicarbonate of soda the pan will fizz. The addition helps soften and ‘break down’ the dates which may remain a litle hard otherwise

Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add 125g of the sugar and stir well. Add the date mixture and egg and stir well. In the bottom the dishes add enough pecan nuts to make a pattern then spoon over the batter and bake for 20 minutes.
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For the caramel sauce place the granulated sugar in a heavy based saucepan and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until it turns into a thick amber coloured liquid. Once you reach this point all the sugar should have melted so you can stir in the remaining 90g of butter, still stirring constantly. Then trickle in the cream whisking as you do. The mixture will spit and bubble rapidly. Boil for 1 minute, it will rise in the pan as it does so make sure it doesn’t boil over. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla salt and allow to cool slightly.

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Adore Naturals Christmas ebook and other stories

Hello hello!! Yes I’m still here despite going AWOL for a while. Looking at the blog the other day I realised I hadn’t written or posted for a whole month! That’s a long time without writing for me.

There are significant reasons for my sluggishness. Writers block is not something to be forced away, or overcome easily especially when life is already full to the point of bursting.  I guess that’s the point; life has been at the point of bursting and so many other things have taken precedence over the writing (which I love, but it doesn’t pay the bills!!).

So, its cooking, eating, attending food events and training that have kept me busy, while the stormy seas of life raged around me. I know I don’t do things by halves, but this month I’ve experienced more than my fair share of major life changing events. These are the things that have taken over my thoughts and time. Separation from my partner after twenty years has been a traumatic wrench along with, a house move and a new chapter in my life as a chef.

Although for now supper club is on hold, I’ve suddenly found myself back in a restaurant after more than twenty years this time as pastry chef at The Oyster Catcher training academy, a role that also involves cooking for the restaurant,  training and mentoring the cadets.  I’ve also been all over the place with cookery demo’s…Conwy, Portmeirion, Abergavenny which also meant little time spent in my new house.

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One piece of writing I did manage to concentrate on was a commission by Adore Naturals. Their festive guide to a natural, stress free Christmas includes ideas for making home-made gifts, family craft projects, health tips, perfect presents and my vegetarian Christmas dinner menu. The book went ‘live’ a while ago and you can access it here if you are looking for last minute inspiration

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The dessert recipe was recently trialled on the specials menu at The Oyster Catcher and was a bit of a hit!

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Beetroot tatin with goats cheese and balsamic glaze from the Adore Christmas ebook and it can be found here

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A rather melted mincemeat and marzipan parfait…studio lights and all that with orange and cinnamon syrup

For now I’m sad to say that supper club is having a break, although I am still cooking private dinners at different locations and am available for private bookings. Don’t worry though, it’s not a permanent break…just to give me enough time to take a breather while I regroup, review where I’m going with business and work out our next move for 2014. Exciting ideas are flying about…collaborations, new venues and opportunities….all I can say is have a great Christmas and watch this space closely!

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A very happy Christmas to you all

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So here it is at last, Christmas is finally upon us. Having had it thrust in our faces for the past two months it reached its crescendo on Black Friday with a mass of work do’s, parties and gatherings which left me feeling as if I’d peaked too soon. Saturday was a quieter affair while Sunday and Monday became days for recovery and baking.  Glittery bite sized star meringues, orange cranberry and cinnamon muffins (for breakfast in the morning), chocolate salami and small trays of lemon drizzle cake make perfect presents and when wrapped in pretty paper or cellophane there’s nothing shop bought that could beat them.

As there are only four of us at home we went for a turkey crown (from my local butcher)rather than the full blown beast, pigs in blankets, chestnut stuffing, the works! Smoked salmon from Derimon and tiny bantam egg salad with home-made blinis, rocket and a chive and creme fraiche dressing will start proceedings and to finish it had to be a Buche de Noel, or chocolate log if like me you can’t be bothered with all that fancy terminology!). My version is like a cross between a chocolate log and a black forest swiss roll!

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Now it’s Christmas Eve;  I’ve battled and survived the six parties, the Christmas baking, the odd birthday party, the shopping and pressy wrapping and the over excited and annoying child, the sickly teenager and all while nursing a slipped disc in my neck. Cocodamol and a stiff Bailey’s have kept me  going and while I may have seemed like an over medicated Nigella, the fact I am now calmly writing this and wishing you all a Happy Christmas means that it is miraculously calm in the Moel Faban house.

 

 

 

 

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There’s nothing like home made Christmas pudding

The little un and me showing off our puddings

Everyone is talking about stir-up Sunday…that is, the last Sunday before Advent begins and the traditional day for making the families Christmas pud. I know we’ve just missed it but really it’s not too late. If you can manage it this weekend here is my traditional pudding recipe which I have used for years, well ever since I moved to Wales which is twenty odd years ago. It is a recipe I adapted from one found in a really old Sainsburys recipe book. My Mum’s from back in the 80’s I think.

Sift 175g (6oz) plain flour, 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice, 1 generous teaspoon cinnamon and half a teaspoon grated nutmeg into a large bowl. Mix in 175g (6oz) fresh brown breadcrumbs then rub in 175g (6oz) softened butter.

Stir in 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar, 350g (12oz) sultanas, 250g (8oz) raisins, the same amount of currants and 75g (3oz) mixed peel. Add the grated rind and juice of one orange, 2 beaten eggs and 120ml of brown ale (or stout). Give it a good mix, don’t forget to have a wish and then turn it into a greased 1.75litre (3 pint) pudding basin (or two smaller ones like we did). Cover with a pudding cloth or greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil pleated in the middle and tied on with string. Steam for 6 hours topping up the water as necessary.

Allow to cool and then replace the greaseproof paper and foil with fresh and store in a cool dry place. Christmas puddings can be made up to 4 months in advance and they tend to get better with time. Much better than anything from a supermarket I have to say.

When THAT day comes round and you are ready to eat your pudding, steam again for about 2 hours, turn out on to a warm dish, douse well with warm brandy and then ignite.

 

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Merry Christmas to you all!

And now the dust is settling on another Christmas day and Boxing day is upon us I thought it a good time to wish you all a very happy Christmas. I hope santa was good to you and you are surviving the festivities. I’m very happy that I’ve done my bit and now I’m looking forward to being entertained by a variety of friends and family, both in Wales and in London when we head off in a day or so.

I find Christmas dinner quite difficult as I live in a house of turkey haters, Christmas pudding avoiders, semi-vegetarian awkward kids. The teen only eats chicken NOTHING else that has lived, no Christmas pud, no cooked vegetables, no custard, mince pies or other Christmas type food… while the little one eats almost anything except Christmas pud. This year saw a change to the traditional Christmas menu. We tried to include everyone’s favourite dishes…..this is what we ended up with

Starters for the teen…

Smoked halloumi salad

We stuck to tradition with our main course opting for

Roast Anglesey capon (from Williams my local butcher) with home-made traditional sage and onion stuffing, sprouts with dry cure bacon and chestnuts, roast potatoes, carrots, vanilla salted parsnips and purple sprouting broccoli

To finish we departed from tradition. Inspired by our recent visit to Cennin (review of which is to come) and at the request of my youngest we decided to have a rich chocolate fondant with home-made mint choc chip ice cream.

We washed dinner down with plenty of Clementine bucks fizz and white wine and followed it up with a doze in front of various Christmas films.

Now I am off to my friends to share our left overs. Take care all and have a lovely few days

Denise and all the Moel Faban family xx

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I’m back!…Christmas markets & supper clubs

Last week was a whirlwind of activity, beginning with a pop-up cafe and jam & chutney stall at the Ogwen Christmas produce and craft market and finishing with three back-to-back supper clubs.

The market was reasonably simple cooking lovely dry cure bacon baps, home-made Moroccan chick pea and spinach soup and Welsh rarebit (made with strong Welsh cheddar and ale) and chutney:….but it was a busy day. I hadn’t anticipated it being so busy and since we were not allowed to use the bigger chapel kitchen I ended up stuck in a tiny poky kitchen with very little surface space, no electric and a boiler that seemed to take for ever to heat! People queued for coffee and we waited….and waited….but all was well in the end and we sold out of bacon, baps and Welsh rarebit…I also sold out of jam & chutney which pretty much put paid to my second stall at the Moelyci Christmas fair…but Sophie of Phia designs (my wonderful seamstress friend that makes all my table linen, napkins, aprons and the most gorgeous little hemp bags which I used for my Christmas hampers) stepped in to sell her lovely fluffy scarves, hats, bags and other stuff made from recycled organic cotton and materials. All I had left from the market were enough jars and bags to make four hampers; which I also sold.

Jam and chutney depleted and with two days break, it was time for three back to back supper clubs. Now I like a challenge but on this occasion I was just plain silly…I got carried away at the planning stage because I wanted to cook everything, so I ended up not only offering a menu choice but three starters, three mains and three desserts; which I cooked on my own. Crazy woman…yep thats me! The dishes were as follows…but you have to forgive my lack of pictures…cooking and photography were one step too far!

Starters:

Beetroot soup with creamy goats feta

Classic Conwy moules mariniere

Chicken liver parfait with soda bread toast and fruity chutney

Mains:

Slow roast Moelyci pork, roast potatoes and slow cooked spiced red cabbage

Chicken breast stuffed with basil butter and wrapped in local pancetta, potato dauphinoise and ratatouille

Wild nantmor mushroom risotto with white truffle oil

Desserts:

Sticky chocolate brownie with mincemeat ice cream

Boozy blackcurrant trifle

Seasonal fruit crumble with creme anglaise

I spent the week cooking in bulk although  the menu was  actually a simple one with lots of scope for pre-preparation. The soup, trifle and brownie were Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes; the mushroom risotto I adapted from a River Cafe recipe and the chicken from a Jamie Oliver recipe.

The mincemeat ice cream was my own, successful creation and the mussels, crumble, pork, dauphinoise and ratatouille are standard combinations I regularly cook. I made two different pate variations, one my own which I wasn’t totally convinced by and a second (a Raymond Blanc parfait recipe) that I liked even less. Everyone else really liked both, but I was looking for something lighter and creamier and both recipes I used made a rather strong pate.

For those that asked and are keen to know, the ingredients used in the meal came from the following local suppliers….

Smoked salmon – Derimon

Anglesey eggs

Calon Wen butter (salted and unsalted)

Home-made damson vodka, creme de cassis, tomato and tomatillo chutney, beetroot relish, carrot relish and tomato and chilli jam

Bramley apples, beetroot, red cabbage, potatoes, onions, parsley and garlic from Pippa & John at Tyddyn Berth

Sarporo Blue Danube potatoes, peppers, aubergine and tomatillos – David Shaw at Henfaes

Conwy mussels

Moelyci pork (very happy pigs)

Anglesey chicken, Chicken livers and Wrexham pancetta came via Williams the butchers or Johnny six as they are known locally

Nantmor shiitake and oyster mushrooms 

Thyme and rosemary and bay from my garden

raspberries and black currants from Moelyci

Halen Mon salt

Petros olive oil

Perl las blue cheese

Seriol and feta Y Cwt Caws

Caws and Farmhouse cheeses from Rhyd y Delyn

and I think that might be it!!….Truly a 30 mile Christmas menu! Here are a few pictures from the evenings…there aren’t many as we were so busy and no pictures of desserts which is an absolute crime!!

Christmas seduction cocktails (named by Rosie the waitress)...apparantly it was a 'sexy' cocktail that needed an appropriate name!!...

beetroot soup with goats cheese feta
pate with tomato & chilli relish and toast
talking to guests

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Christmas menu update

The festive period is rapidly approaching and bookings and inquiries are coming in thick and fast for both the December supper clubs, as well as for private Christmas parties in the period between the 5th and 18th December.

If you would like to book your own Christmas do with a difference drop me an email at moelfabansecretsupperclub@live.co.uk or give me a call on 07775 828769. We are offering a location for your party any day within that period and either a gorgeous, seasonal three course lunch or dinner for £21.50 a head or, the full monty (cocktail on arrival and coffee and Welsh cheeses at the end) for the usual £30 a head.

As well as this you also get a choice!!  In a break with the norm we are cooking a slightly fuller menu  from which you can choose when you book…the seasonal menu is as follows;

Starters:

  • Beetroot soup with feta or goats cheese
  • Chicken terrine with home made chutney and sourdough toast
  • Traditional Conwy mussel moules mariniere with bread

Main course:

  • Slow roast pork with braised red cabbage, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and gravy
  • Chicken with basil butter and pancetta, potato dauphinoise and ratatouille
  • Wild mushroom and squash risotto with white truffle oil

Dessert:

  • Chocolate brownie with mincemeat ice cream
  • Blackcurrant trifle
  • Seasonal crumble with creme anglaise

I hope there is something there that you find tempting and I look forward to hearing from you. If you think you might want to join us on the 17th there are just a couple of spaces left so don’t delay!!

Denise x

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